Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Kuo Kuan-ying goes international

The flap over the allegations that Kuo Kuan,ying, an official in the Taiwan diplomatic service in Toronto, is a raving racist anti-Taiwan bigot reached the international news today with an AP article:

President Ma Ying-jeou's efforts to build a diverse communal coalition have taken a hit after an official was alleged to have called Taiwan's majority population "primitive" and suggested China should use force to seize the island.

The affair is a huge embarrassment to Ma, who has worked hard to unite Taiwan's fractious communal groups to support his ambitious China engagement program, despite continuing Chinese threats to take over democratic Taiwan by force.

While it is unlikely to delay the program's implementation — it still enjoys strong support — it could cost Ma's party votes in this year's local elections, as so-called "native Taiwanese" return to the communally conscious — and anti-China — opposition, the Democratic Progressive Party.

The affair burst into the limelight late last week when Kuo Kuan-ying of Taiwan's representative office in Toronto admitted he described himself in a newspaper essay as a "superior mainlander" — a politically charged reference to the 2 million people who came to the island in 1949 after the Chinese civil war and dominated its institutions for the next 50 years.

Amid growing local outrage, Kuo denied more serious charges of referring to the majority population of native Taiwanese as "primitives," and writing that "China should use force to take over" Taiwan, even though the island "was not qualified" to unite with Beijing.

Lawmakers identified with the interests of native Taiwanese have led the public criticism against Kuo. They say a pen name he is known to have used was on an essay that contained those inflammatory anti-Taiwan, pro-China statements.

Ma, whose parents were born in China, is particularly vulnerable on that issue, because he is struggling against a widespread perception that many mainlanders favor unity with China. Taiwan split from the mainland amid civil war in 1949, and has been self-governing ever since.
The article is quite good -- reporting on the identity conflict here is always a minefield. Although it seems weird to report that Ma's parents were from China without reporting that Ma was born there too (in Guangdong province), I suspect the writer wanted to emphasize Ma's Chinese ancestry here. It's probably much too early to say whether this will affect the elections -- Taiwanese appear to vote in local elections with remarkably little attention to issues at the international or national level, and every voter knows that such feelings are widespread among mainlanders, yet a substantial portion of Taiwanese are KMT voters. They shrug it off and vote for whoever is yanking on their patronage networks.

The story continues to create a furor locally, however. In addition to Kuo's alleged pen name "范蘭欽" sounding like "泛藍軍" (pan-Blue army), his other alleged pen name, "辛文菊" sounds like the name of his employer, the GIO: "新聞局." This link has a chart in Chinese that maps the posts of Fan and appears to indicate that not only are Fan and Kuo the same person, but Kuo made the posts during office hours.

Maddog also flipped me this story from Sina.com, which says that the GIO's claim that he has been demoted from "主管" position to that of "非主管" is...not correct. Apparently he doesn't have the position of "主管" in the first place -- he is merely a "代理".

UPDATE: I should add that the nobody has uttered a single word about United Daily News, which gave Fan's garbage an outlet. Aren't they just as bad?

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24 comments:

Feiren said...

Michael, I'm not convinced that everybody knows that many WSR harbor views similar to Guo's. At least here in Taipei, I have had the experience of having been told by highly educated Taiwanese that they were shocked to realize that such attitudes do exist.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy to see that this story has gotten some international press. While the story has gotten the facts correct, I disagree with the statement that Ma "..has worked hard to unite Taiwan's fractious communal groups ..." The pace in which the government has made its investigation findings known has been disappointing. This is especially important in light of the uproar that this caused among the Taiwanese public (75% believe that the government should take putative action against Kuo if the allegations are true.)While any thorough investigation would take time, how hard would it be to issue a warrant to search Kuo's computer or track a "cyberspace footprint" of where the blog entries originated? Furthermore, President Ma has hardly seized the opportunity to smooth things over with the native Taiwanese populist. By failing to take a public stance in codemning discriminatory statements from ANY member of the government for over a week (he fell short by acknowledging that Kuo was being investigated,) it seems as if he is merely waiting for the whole thing to blow over or tacitly admitting it is simply not important enough to warrant a response. His lack of leadership on this issue thus far is certainly sabatoging his purported agenda of "communal unity."

SY said...

The AP article reads more like an untended propaganda piece for the Ma regime:

1. "President Ma Ying-jeou's efforts to build a diverse communal coalition have taken a hit"...???

Since when has Ma ever uttered an intention to build a diverse communal coalition, let alone putting up any "efforts"?


2. "The affair is a huge embarrassment to Ma, who has worked hard to unite Taiwan's fractious communal groups to support his ambitious China engagement program"...???

Ma "has worked hard" to ...? Evidence please! Evidence in forms of acts or even speeches, please. Ma has avoided talking about the "China engagement program" for as much as he can. Nobody today, not even anyone in his administration can explain what that "program" is.

One almost is compelled to wonder whether AP has been paid by Ma's regime to smuggle these sentences to distract attention from the real and big issue here: racism and genocide.

Anonymous said...

When I first arrived in Taiwan I was told by my "friend" that my mandarin was excellent (first lie) because I had the Beijing accent (a relic from college courses). She then went on to explain that in Taiwan the Waishengren were higher class and held the best jobs because they were high class and better educated. Taiwanese were low class people who are laborers and uneducated people. The aborigines were "the worst" and had to do the bad jobs.

Despite the KMT myth of ethnic harmony or blaming the DPP for inciting ethic discord (DPP does shoulder some blame, but not all), Waishengren owe their collective identity to their Taiwan experience. They created a new ethnic group from all types of people, speaking all types of languages and forges an identity rooted in their identification with the ROC state.

There was a conscious effort to distinguish themselves as Waishengren as it translated into greater opportunities under the state structure which placed a premium on loyalty to the Chiang regime. This identity was deployed in many ways from living in certain areas, clothing, hairstyles, music, and the accent. I have met several second and third generation Taiwanese with at least one Waishengren parent, who maintain a very distinct Mandarin accent. They would term it "proper". Many university Mandarin programs are staffed by these people, which is ridiculous for anyone wishing to communicate with the majority of Taiwanese.
Many of these people were very afraid when Chen Shuibian was elected for the first time as they saw their privilege threatened. I think that is still the case.
The mass media is largely owned by KMT loyalists and Waishengren gangsters (true). If you look at the values and [talent] on television it is not localized. News personalities speak Waisheng Mandarin, they hire Waisheng talent, they promote Waisheng values.

I would gladly welcome a greater study in the construction of the Waisheng identity.

Anonymous said...

"every voter knows that such feelings are widespread among mainlanders, yet a substantial portion of Taiwanese are KMT voters. They shrug it off and vote for whoever is yanking on their patronage networks."

I don't think that many people who vote for the KMT do so because they think the KMT is good - it's just an act of voting against the DPP. The DPP has been successfully portrayed over the years as a bunch of violent, underhanded Taiwanese hooligans and there is a lot of hatred out there against them.

Anonymous said...

"I have had the experience of having been told by highly educated Taiwanese that they were shocked to realize that such attitudes do exist."

Speaking of highly educated Taiwanese, I was shocked when told by a WSR "they say that all intelligent Taiwanese had been killed by CKS".

Anonymous said...

"While any thorough investigation would take time, how hard would it be to issue a warrant to search Kuo's computer or track a "cyberspace footprint" of where the blog entries originated?"

Compare this with how aggressively the government has pursued the corruption investigation against A-bian and his family.

Anonymous said...

"Ma has avoided talking about the "China engagement program" for as much as he can. Nobody today, not even anyone in his administration can explain what that "program" is."

If Ma had been upfront and forthcoming about his engagement process with China instead of rushing it along it most likely would have avoided a lot of the turbulence of the CYL visit. When even old KMT folks set themselves ablaze in protest you can be sure that the government did an incredibly poor job of communicating to the people.

Thomas said...

I thought that this story was a step in the right direction for AP, although they do have some annoying gloss-overs and they have maintained some of the cookie-cutter phrases, such as the 1949 split thing.

Things I found annoying:
-Implying that Taiwanese support Ma's China programs, when support for those programs is really dependent on the program itself. Taiwanese currently don't support the ECFA, for example, although they did support the three links.

-Implying that dominance of the mainlander elite has ended. This is simply not true, and it was not true when Chen was president either. Chen just problematised the dominance of that elite for a time.

-Implying that Ma has worked hard to unify Taiwan's "fractious" groups when, in fact, he has not really tried to accommodate Taiwan-centric voters/politicians at all.

Things I like:
-That AP has acknowledged this problem in the first place.

-That the AP actually noticed that lawmakers can be Taiwan-centric without being fundamentalist loonies or independence supporters or DPP politicians only. Taiwanese identity is not limited to one party or to some fundamentalist ideology. However, I fear that this realisation on their part stems more from the fact that KMT lawmakers have criticised Kuo too, so AP just had no way to pin this on the DPP.

Support for Ma's China programs is very much dependent on the program in question. AP makes it sound as though Taiwanese support Ma's China programs across the board.

Michael Turton said...

I have to disagree with a few of the comments here.

First, the reporter is right. Ma (and the KMT) has tried, and successfully, I might add (60% of the vote!) to build a diverse coalition among identity communities in Taiwan. That's what the KMT is -- an ethnic coalition, with mainlanders running the show, and other ethnic outgroups clearly subordinate to them. Like it or not, 80% of the people who vote KMT are not mainlanders. That they are slitting their own throat financially and politically simply testifies to the success of the KMT in getting people to vote against their own interests.

Feiren, I think what has happened is that Taiwanese have internalized the critique of themselves as inferior as the natural order of things. They know they are put down, but that critique strikes most as normal. I remember in 2000 I asked people why they were voting for Soong, and the answer was "he was a gentleman" -- he was of the class which should be running things. Chen Shui-bian was not of this class, and so he was constantly lampooned as a hick from hicksville. Every Taiwanese knew that he as attacked this way...

Michael

Michael Turton said...

Thomas, on the things you like, I totally agree -- it was really great to see mainstream media out there discussing this.

Michael

Anonymous said...

"News personalities speak Waisheng Mandarin, they hire Waisheng talent, they promote Waisheng values."

This is true in the past and the legacy of many years of waisheng in media, from newspapers to television to radio to the movie industry make this difficult to change.

However, the waisheng media outlets have long been bleeding money and the "local" stations and Hong Kong media seem to be the only ones that know how to make any money.

Ex of dying waisheng/pan-Blue media:

The China Times laid-off most of their workers and almost shuttered but was bought by some super rich dude. UDN is in a similar situation except it has made some money and good press via exhibitions and other avenues. The most popular newspapers by far are Liberty Times (Taiwanese) and Apple Daily (HK).

China TV (CTV) apparently, the only channel to make money are the entertainment channels with the news station a big money hole. ETV/Dongsen, of the waisheng family Rebar group also can't seem to make any money.

Although Taiwanese is in a somewhat precarious state among young people, the most highly viewed shows are the Taiwanese dramas of SET and Formosa Television (FTV). Very popular modern Mandarin dramas, like 敗犬女王 and 波麗士大人 are very local in character and give no special treatment for waisheng.

Ma's presidential campaign helped many waisheng/pan-Blue media outlets hold on a little longer, and the large amount of government advertisements these days is playing a similar role.

But the horrible economy, the even more disastrous car market, is going to kill alot of those media outlets. Sooner or later, they are going under. And that, though largely ignored by the press and looked at only from the economic angle, will herald the true end of a waisheng dominated media.

Maoman said...

Born in Guangdong Province? Or in Kowloon? Or does it even matter? I think one does not have to be born in Taiwan to love it, and if there is no hard evidence that he was born outside of Kowloon, what's the point in raising it as a question? Where's the benefit? It doesn't prove his loyalties lie elsewhere. Can we just focus on his incompetence instead of the irrelevant details of his birth?

Dixteel said...

"Taiwanese have internalized the critique of themselves as inferior as the natural order of things...I remember in 2000 I asked people why they were voting for Soong, and the answer was 'he was a gentleman' -- he was of the class which should be running things."

That's actually a very good point, Michael. I knew about it but didn't make much connection of it with the Kuo incident and the election. The Ma phenomenon is also the same now I think of it. It's not just the old women thinking he is handsome, but probably many peope voted for him simply because subcoutiously they think he is a "superior gentleman."

Recently though I think more and more Taiwanese realize this problem, although there are still many that don't. I hope I am not hallucinating and hope this trend continue.

Jenna said...

It is fantastic to see that this is making international news; maybe it's a sign that foreign news coverage of Taiwan will stop being so...well I hesitate to say "pro-China" or "pro-KMT" but so...cautious about mentioning things like Taiwanese identity, communalism, socioeconomic issues and independence. I'm sick of these things being dirty words in the international press.

reeb said...

KMT GIO masters to Mr. Kuo:

Everybody knows you never go full retard.

Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, 'Rain Man,' look retarded, act retarded, not retarded. Counted toothpicks, cheated cards. Autistic, sho'. Not retarded. You know Tom Hanks, 'Forrest Gump.' Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and won a ping-pong competition. That ain't retarded.

You went full retard, man. Never go full retard. You don't buy that? Ask Lien Chan, 2000, "It's not fair." Remember? Went full retard, went home empty handed...

Anonymous said...

"I remember in 2000 I asked people why they were voting for Soong, and the answer was "he was a gentleman" -- he was of the class which should be running things."

I asked many native Taiwanese why they voted for Ma and most said things like, he is tall, handsome, speaks English, etc., rather than on any substantive issue or whether he is a WSR or BSR. My conclusion is that Hsieh could never overcome Ma's appeal no matter what his policies were.

Carlos said...

When I've gone up north to Taipei I've always hear plenty of comments directed towards southerners. It sounds to me like the original WSR attitude towards Taiwanese has become euphemised in that way.

SY said...

Michael,

My take of AP's wording of "[Ma's] efforts to build a diverse communal coalition" is different from yours. I don't understand it from pure voting perspective. The AP text implied something broader; thus, wrong, in my view.

In any case, regarding your notes on Taiwanese internalizing their taught "inferiority" (since elementary school, I might add), I'd like to point out one thing for people to understand how it works: Classic Stockholm syndrome.

Michael Turton said...

n to love it, and if there is no hard evidence that he was born outside of Kowloon, what's the point in raising it as a question? Where's the benefit? It doesn't prove his loyalties lie elsewhere.

Yeah, but it is Ma himself who has created the issue by producing different stories about his birthplace and his birth narrative -- trying to show he is really Taiwanese or something. This naturally piques everyone's interest.

Anonymous said...

"News personalities speak Waisheng Mandarin, they hire Waisheng talent, they promote Waisheng values."


I just want to emphasize that I don't just mean news media, but entertainment as well. Look at the "S" sisters and their ilk.

Also

I am not discussing "Taiwanese language" programs, but standard Mandarin programming that is done with an outrageous "grrr" "nar" trilled "r" etc... Imagien filling the broadcasting positions in the US and Canada with talent who use only upper class accents from London.

In Taiwan the Waisheng accent is encouraged for public broadcast. My wife had to speak like that for a Field Day for her school. It was a conscious change from her normal speech patter to satisfy her superiors. She informed me this is a usual practice.

Anonymous said...

"Born in Guangdong Province? Or in Kowloon? Or does it even matter?"

It matters because Ma repeatedly has claimed he was conceived in Taiwan and has repeated many times he was born in Kowloon (both to Taiwanese and HKers). It is a problem because evidence has come out that he was born in Guangdong and he has not shown otherwise.

It isn't a problem to have been born in China, but it is a problem to have been born in China but to over the years repeatedly claim that you were born in HK and conceived in Taiwan (which also appears unlikely but hasn't been disproved).

Ma made this matter because he says it offhand so much. If the evidence is right, it doesn't make him disloyal to Taiwan, but it does make him a liar who uses convenient lies if he thinks it will help him politically.

Anonymous said...

I just want to emphasize that I don't just mean news media, but entertainment as well. Look at the "S" sisters and their ilk.

Agreed. Xiao S particularly pisses me off because her way of criticizing other stars (guests on her show) is to say they are too "local", too Tai (Tai is short for Taiwanese), or too countryside. It's outrageous when the very language of aesthetic value ascribes Taiwanese-ness to the bottom of the scale.

That English is so fetishized in Taiwan beyond it's very important role in the global economy in Taiwan I think very much has to do with the past role Mandarin,especially "proper" Mandarin. I find waisheng girls especially proud of learning English and especially having a need to. Think about it--without Mandarin to rely on, with the whole "proper" accent thing turned on its head, with the pride of the Taike, what else can they use to preserve their social standing? English for now, is being used as the same club to show off social status that Mandarin used to.

Anonymous said...

Michael, it is funny that AP chosed to say "Ma's parents were born in China". In fact, Ma himself was not born in Taiwan, but rather, somewhere in China. (He reported himself to be born in Guan Dong and Hong Kong at different interviews). Although the articles were offensive, the lack of respect(or the arrogant disregard)of people's opinion is far worse. I hope people of Taiwan will wake up one day and realize the picture Ma painted is a cloud of lies.